There is good and bad about the rise of the "mommy blog," says mother and author Kate Hopper. Good: women should write! Writing spreads one's voice, motherhood can be an intense time. Bad: why must we qualify them as something apart from any other blogger, memoirist, etc. Hopper promises to discuss these topics -- and more saliently, how you can get started on a chapter of your own -- at her upcoming appearance at Good Vibrations' mothers-specific hang-out, which also features Carol Queen speaking about post-natal nookie, on Wed/1. We caught up with her before she hit SF to get a sneak peek at her relationship with the written word.
SFBG: What's with the current mommy blogger vogue? Haven't women always been writing about parenthood? Why is it so popular right now, and why use that particular label?
KH: Women have been writing about parenthood for a long time, but not in [these] numbers and not so publicly. The Internet and blogging have given women a forum to write about their lives in a way that hasn’t happened before. Countless mother bloggers have really found a sense of community in the blogosphere. Motherhood can be so isolating, and blogging can help combat that isolation. And they can make money. I have never advertised on my blog, but I know it can be lucrative.
About the label: I really dislike the term “mommy blogger,” just as I dislike the term “momoir” to describe memoirs that have anything to do with motherhood. The names people use to describe literature or movies — or anything — have an impact on how those things are perceived. And when you categorize books as “chick lit,” “mommy lit,” “momoir,” and blogs as “mommy blogs” you make it easier for people to discard these books and blogs. They are viewed as less serious, less important. Once something is labeled “momoir” or a “mommy blog” people don’t take it seriously as literary venture. And there are some really amazing books and blogs being written by mothers right now.
The motherhood literature I read and review (and the motherhood blogs I read) deal with more than the minutiae of daily life with children. They are dealing with issues of identity, with loss and longing, neurosis and fear, ambivalence and joy. They are about transformation and how we see ourselves in relation to the world in which we live.
SFBG: At what point did you realize motherhood would become the primary thing you write about?
KH: I began writing about motherhood in 2004, a few months after my older daughter was born prematurely. Stella was born two months early and spent a month in the hospital, and the long winter months that followed home with me. At the time I was in the third year of the MFA program at the University of Minnesota, and I had to withdraw from school in order to stay home and care for my fragile and extremely fussy daughter. Up until that point, writing had been the way I processed what was happening in my life. But I couldn’t think much less write in those early months.
It was only when Stella was five months old that I finally realized I needed to find my way back into words. So I went to the coffee shop near our house and pulled out paper and a pen. And the images of my daughter -- a miniature thing on an open warming bed, her legs splayed like a frog’s, a white ventilator tube taped over her mouth, purple veins tracking across her skull like spider webs -- came spilling out. After an hour, words covered the page. And for the first time since Stella was born, I felt grounded and the world felt a little bigger. I felt less alone. I’ve been writing about motherhood ever since, though in recent years, I’ve spent more time helping other women get their motherhood stories down on paper.
SFBG: You teach women how to write. Is there a particular challenge that you see as being particularly difficult for your students?
KH: One thing that always comes up when you’re teaching creative non-fiction is the ethics of writing about the people in your life. This ethical dilemma is heightened for women writing about their children, because it’s our job as parents to protect these small people. I always tell my students not to worry about this as they are beginning to write. If they do, they will self-censor and might not get to the heart of the stories they need to write. But before they decide to send a piece of writing about their children out into the world, it’s important to acknowledge how their children might react to reading it. It’s a very personal decision and there is no right or wrong way to it, but it’s important to know what you feel comfortable with — what’s the line you won’t cross? -- and then trust your gut.
SFBG: Who, in your opinion, are the best mommy bloggers in the game today?
KH: I’m not sure I can say who the “best” motherhood bloggers are, but I know whose writing resonates with me. A few of my favorites are Rachel Turiel, Kristen Spina, Jenn Mattern, Heather King, and Elizabeth Aquino. They are all very talented writers, and their posts are reflective and well thought out. They also all write from the heart and aren’t afraid to be honest. I really respect that.
Kate Hopper at Mommy's Playdate
Wed/1 7-9pm, free
1609 Polk, SF